“We may have come on different ships, but we’re on the same boat now.“
-Martin Luther King Jr.
Moving to the States, starting a new life, making lots of new friends, trying out different cuisines, and travelling places were on my mind like most of you. I used sitcoms as a reality check of the ‘America’ I would be living in. But relocating here and living as a new immigrant made me understand there’s more to the U.S.A. than ever told.
So, here’s a sneak peek of 11 things I learnt about the American culture –
- Small talk
Small talks are a significant part of the culture; from supermarkets to drug stores to restaurants, you can find people greeting you with a ‘hello‘, ‘how are you‘ and ‘how’s it going‘? Initially, I thought they meant to strike up a conversation, and I even explained how my day was, but I later understood that’s just Americans being friendly.
So have your ‘hey there’, ‘it’s a beautiful day’, ‘have a good one’, ‘appreciate it’ on the tip of your tongue; as these are the most used phrases in America to greet.
People living in the States are always punctual! They are committed to arriving at the place on time and, in fact, a little earlier. Honestly it was a little hard to adapt to this initially because meeting you in 5 meant 20 mins for me. Still trying to be there, and it’s a struggle, but hoping one day, I’ll be dot on time.
- Weather and Forecast
Talking about weather is not just small talk but crucial information in the U.S.A., and NO mornings are complete without asking Alexa ‘What’s the weather today?’. The schedules and plans for the whole week are based on it. It was a very unusual thing to learn when I first moved here. Eventually, it just got exciting to keep a check on what surprises the day held, and I must say it’s pretty accurate. So, remember to check for the weather alerts, thunderstorms, tornado warnings and more.
- Everything is on the Calendar
Whether planning a week, vacation or the year, here in America, having a schedule is most important. Sometimes, a casual walk with a friend is also noted on one’s calendar as an activity. People here are not in for surprises or a sudden plan. They make sure it’s convenient for everyone around them and themselves. That’s why you’ll also find a lot of advance invitations coming your way for RSVPs.
- Coffee is an obsession
There’s something about coffee and coffee machines; people are obsessed with them. Coffee dates and working out of coffee shops are people’s favorites. One can never have enough coffee in America, and it grows onto you. Having multiple cups of black coffee is not an uncommon sight. That also explains the multiple options and outlets you can see in America around every other block.
Be it breakfast, lunch or a coffee on the way, it’s always on the go. Don’t be surprised to find people grabbing a quick lunch, sipping their coffee on the way to work, in the park, or while driving. Life is just so busy here on the weekdays that there’s no time to enjoy a meal. That explains the drive-through and pick-up facilities. This was also a phrase I had to get used to instead of saying ‘pack it’.
- Grocery Runs
Grocery shopping is so much fun and therapeutic for many in the U.S.A. The stores are a whole new world on the inside and go from big, bigger and biggest. As someone new to the city, it was difficult to understand the difference between Walmart, Costco and Target. Knowing the pricing, the crowd and the options available takes a while. And it’s common to see the entire family going for grocery runs.
- Text over a call
Text messages are a preferred form of communication here. Calls could either mean a kind of emergency or an urgent need to respond. Work colleagues usually send regular texts rather than WhatsApp. I miss the banter we had back home, where we had WhatsApp groups, one with the boss, one with colleagues, and one with the closest colleagues to discuss work.
Americans are very outgoing and adventurous and enjoy outdoor activities. Be it going for a run, walking, hiking, and other sports, they love being out. It’s mainly because of the beautiful nature and trails that it’s just calming after a day of busy work.
In America, people love doing things by themselves because it works out much cheaper; second, they prefer picking up new skills. Be it assembling Ikea furniture or trying to fix a flat tire, many are very comfortable to DIY. Something which I wasn’t so used to back home because getting access to service and labor was very easy. Being self-sufficient is a significant takeaway from the culture.
After speaking of planning and scheduling, it is essential to address the need for appointments. Any work that requires personal interaction requires appointments here. A salon, a visit to the doctor, oil change or even getting your electronics repaired takes a while, and you need to give it at least some time to fix.
America is a land of different people and, therefore, an amalgamation of different cultures. Embracing all the new things with an open mind is the key to feeling a sense of belonging in this wonderland.
What fascinated you about American culture?
Comment below and we’ll add to the list.
About the writer – Radhika Bajaj is a Digital Content Designer with a master’s degree in International Studies and child rights. Apart from her research in world politics, she’s very fond of art and graphic design and currently volunteers at Open Roads Michigan as a content creator.